Graduates – Not Just for the Big Boys

Graduate recruitment schemes have typically been reserved for  large telecom IT vendors and network operators such as BT and Vodafone. These programmes have been widely acknowledged as a key component in the UK’s long-term economic plan, with BT recruiting 1,000 new apprentices and graduates earlier this year as part of its ‘transformation’ ahead of its planned national fibre rollout.

While graduate recruitment programmes have historically been used to source and train future engineers and analysts, they can also be a powerful tool to recruit and develop sales champions, enabling small and medium-sized channel organisations to open up new revenue streams and safeguard future business growth.

Millennials and selling

The ability to recruit graduates to fill entry-level sales roles helps to keep businesses fresh, adaptable and contemporary in the current marketplace. The millennial generation has grown up in a converged world where the divide between IT and telecoms is irrelevant; all that matters to them is the user experience. As such they are more likely to be in tune with your customers.

Graduates learning about the business from the ground up are in a better position to provide feedback and suggestions regarding existing processes. While more experienced salespeople rely on old habits – farming in an ever diminishing network of old contacts –graduates have the opportunity to build fresh networks by integrating the latest sales techniques with digital strategies such as social media and web conferencing tools like Skype or Cisco WebEx.

Another benefit of graduate programmes is that bringing groups of graduates in as part of a structured training programme promotes camaraderie and competition, enhancing performance and retention for a stronger return on investment.

What to consider

The decision to introduce a graduate recruitment scheme should be carefully considered and there are steps that dealers should take before setting up their own programme.

First, they should ask themselves what the motivation is behind introducing a new scheme. Running a recruitment programme can be time and cost-intensive so careful thought must be given to what benefits a graduate scheme would bring to the business. Introducing a group of graduates may appear to be beneficial in the short-term, but if there is nowhere for those candidates to progress to after completion, there’s little chance of retaining talented individuals.

Secondly, they must define what their graduate scheme entails. Dealers should recruit graduates based on the current and future needs of the business; for example, placing graduates in departments that are lacking in resource or using a programme to help with future expansion and development plans. The type of available opportunities and business area will need to be identified in order to determine where training and development resources are needed.

In order to compete with blue chip graduate schemes, timing is also crucial. Many big name graduate programmes begin advertising and recruiting in January but don’t introduce the new hires into the company until September. By doing this they attract those high calibre graduates who have started their job search early. Channel players must ensure that their timescales encourage quality applicants; if they leave advertising too late, they are unlikely to accumulate a pool of diverse graduates that offer any value.

Dealers must also future-proof their recruitment strategy and have a plan in place once the graduates finish their scheme. What will their role be? What area of the business will they work in? And the big question; what is the return? All of these questions must be considered to ensure high quality candidates remain within the company beyond entry-level.

Barriers…

Although there are obvious advantages for dealers introducing graduate schemes, investing so much time, money and resource into millennials is a prospect that can scare potential graduate employers.

Dealers may be cautious that they invest money and time in training a new recruit only for them to leave shortly afterwards. The ‘job-hopping’ millennial stereotype is often a result of employers not providing a stimulating work environment in which graduates can learn and progress. On the contrary, the training and development that a graduate scheme offers usually attracts candidates who are seeking defined career paths and progression therefore encouraging long-term retention.

In many way dealers can offer graduates opportunities that larger organisations cannot. Graduates are likely to have a more immersive experience at small and medium-sized companies with the opportunity to learn about the whole business due to smaller teams and hands-on management. Graduates learn quicker, have greater responsibility and a bigger impact on the bottom line.

Realistic options

Whilst they might not be the best decision for every dealer, small to medium sized companies need to give carefully consideration to the benefits that a graduate scheme could offer their company.

Some dealers may prefer to take ownership of the scheme internally but running such a programme can be costly and time-consuming. Alternatively, businesses could consider the merits of outsourcing graduate recruitment. By handing the reins over to a recruitment specialist, organisations can avoid many of the pitfalls of running such a programme, reduce costs and get their sales graduates making a contribution from the outset.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine